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Santa Monica Revs Up for the First Homeless Count in 2 Years
By Jorge Casuso
November 17, 2021 -- The City is seeking volunteers for the upcoming 2022 Homeless Census, and if recent counts are an indication, there will be one volunteer for every three homeless individuals located and tallied.
Due to the coronavirus emergency, the January 26 homeless census will be the first since January 2020, when some 350 volunteers counted 907 individuals, marking an 8 percent drop from the previous year.
“The Homeless Count has long been one of my favorite evenings of the year because of the outpouring of support to address our daunting challenge as a city and as a society,” Mayor Sue Himmelrich said in a statement.
As they have in the past, teams of volunteers this year will comb every street in Santa Monica -- a total of 226 linear miles -- to tally homeless individuals sleeping outdoors, as well as in cars, RVs and tents.
But unlike the 2020 count, which took place two months before the State imposed a shutdown due to the coronavirus, volunteers will be trained "virtually by video," City officials said.
The count will also be modified "with COVID-19 safety best practices in place to ensure a safe experience for the volunteer corps who power this important and mandatory activity," City officials said.
In addition, "count materials will be provided through a drive-up-style format at a location to be shared soon," officials said.
Conducted overnight "to better identify individuals sleeping in the City," the count "represents the number of people identified as experiencing homelessness on a single night," according to City officials.
"The Count is not a cumulative number of people who may experience homelessness throughout the year, nor does it fully represent the number of homeless people who may be present in the City during daytime hours, but sleep elsewhere," City officials have said.
The annual census, however, provides crucial information that helps policymakers and service providers to better understand the extent of the homeless problem and implement solutions.
The Census -- which is required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) -- also establishes a baseline number that is used by jurisdictions when applying for federal homeless grants and housing assistance.
"Here in Santa Monica, we use the information to both understand the number of people living without shelter as well as other trends, including concentrations of homelessness throughout the city," local officials said.
"From there, the City and our service provider partners can focus resources in the areas of greatest need."
That was the case in 2019, which found an increase in the number of homeless people on the beach, prompting City officials to deploy an outreach team to the area, officials.
This "resulted in a demonstrated decrease in homelessness at the beach during the 2020 count," officials said.
That count saw an 8 percent drop from 2019, when some 300 volunteers counted 985 homeless individuals, a three percent increase over the previous year.
The 2019 tally marked the greatest number of homeless individuals counted in the beach city since 2007, when 999 persons were counted ("Santa Monica Homeless Count Shows Slight Increase," March 21, 2019).
Details and registration forms are available at www.santamonica.gov/santa-monica-homeless-count
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